Organizers hope to draw 600 protesters, tractor parade
By Susan Hundertmark, Mitchell Advocate
As St. Columban Energy LP holds a public open house at the Seaforth Community Centre Thursday, May 26 to “afford stakeholders and other interested parties the opportunity to review display boards” and “provide comments,” Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) will be protesting possible health effects and falling property value at a rally outside.
In a press release last week, HEAT announced they will be organizing an “opposition rally” to represent the concerns in the rural community about industrial wind power projects, including the 15-turbine project planned for the St. Columban area, and to continue its call for “proper health studies.”
HEAT member Gerry Ryan is attributed in the press release as saying, “the Ontario government has put very little thought into the negative impact the GEA is having on rural areas, it has stripped the planning authority from municipalities and is creating community upset locally.”
HEAT member Rob Tetu says the rally has been advertised on the Ontario Wind Concerns website and he is hoping to see a large number of protesters attend from across Ontario.
“We are hoping to have a parade of tractors and we’re expecting a broad range of support from people in a reasonable driving distance,” he says, adding he expects protest from communities such as Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh (ACW), Arran-Elderslie and Shelburne where wind turbines have already been erected.
Ryan says in the press release that he’s hoping more than 600 protesters attend the rally, pointing to a similar protest in Drayton held last Nov. 30 where 600 gathered on a cold and rainy night.
The public open house, which is planned for 5:30 to 8 p.m., is one of two public consultations required under provincial regulations involved in the issuance of a Renewable Energy Approval for the St. Columban wind project.
The notice of public meeting, published recently in The Advocate, says that St. Columban project has undergone an Environmental Screening and a Notice of Completion was issued in the summer of 2009. A written copy of the draft project description report is available on Pristine Power’s website, updated to provide “correct turbine coordinates, but the location of the turbines remains unchanged.” The report is also available at the Huron East town hall.
While the notice says the public will be able to provide comments to the project team, Tetu says HEAT disagrees that the open house will meet the definition of “public consultation.”
“A reasonable definition of consultation is a presentation, followed by discussion and accommodation. We don’t think consultation is a hall filled with placards and a chance to email someone if we have concerns,” he says.
In the press release, Ryan says that a similar public meeting, held two years ago in Brodhagen, failed to “consult” with residents in any meaningful way.
“The company had a bunch of signboards set up in the hall, outlining where the turbines would be located and explaining their take on environmental and health concerns. They refused to answer concerns to residents as a group – we were supposed to write questions on a piece of paper or submit by email and they would respond to each person individually. We weren’t even permitted to record the information from the signboards,” he says.
At 6 p.m., there will be brief addresses by several speakers including HEAT representatives, Arran-Elderslie Mayor Mark Davis and Barb Ashbee, a Chesley woman who left her home after suffering health problems she says were caused by wind turbine noise.